29 Aug 2008

Prosecutor: Alleged molester leads 'cult'

Honolulu Advertiser - August 28, 2008

by Jim Dooley |Advertiser staff writer

A deputy prosecutor said accused child molester Manuel "Memo" Taboada is the head of a religious "cult," and a police detective said Taboada is being investigated in Oregon for conspiracy to assist "numerous adult men committing sex assaults against children."

Those allegations were leveled in Circuit Court yesterday during a hearing on Taboada's request for release from jail pending trial on charges that he molested the daughter of a member of his ministry for nearly nine years, beginning when the victim was 11 years old. (An indictment, however, stated the offenses began when the victim was 12, and lasted eight years.)

Honolulu police detective Elizabeth Merrill said two Portland, Ore., detectives told her Taboada, 56, is under investigation for "facilitating" sex assaults of minors by "numerous alleged suspects" who belonged to a religious group Taboada headed there in the 1990s.

No charges have been filed in that case and Taboada has not been accused of active participation in a sex crime, Merrill acknowledged under questioning by defense lawyer Michael Green.

But the Portland detectives have received allegations that "Mr. Taboada was not only aware of (the assaults) but facilitated them," Merrill said.

Taboada, a naturalized citizen originally from Peru, came to Hawai'i with religious followers in 1999, establishing a ministry called "Back to the Cross" in Kane'ohe.

Taboada was "grooming (the alleged victim) for leadership of the ministry" and shared living quarters with her on the top floor of a house the group owned on Waikalua Drive in Kane'ohe, according to Merrill.

At one point, he told her about "surgical procedures so that she could be impregnated with his sperm so that she could bear his child," Merrill said.

The detective said Taboada admitted sexually assaulting the victim to several people here, including one of his sons, four "elders" of his ministry and later to his entire congregation.

Green asked the detective if Taboada admitted just to kissing and hugging the alleged victim.

"He admitted he had done more than hugging and kissing," Merrill said.

Deputy Prosecutor Thalia Murphy asked if Taboada's followers asked him "to step down as cult leader."

Merrill said they did and that Taboada agreed with the request but never did step down.

Murphy said Taboada later "quoted Scripture to justify his unspeakable acts."

And he asked one of his sons to convince the alleged victim to recant her charges against him, according to Merrill.

Taboada's sister also asked the complainant to take back what she had said about him, according to Merrill.

Murphy said the victim has moved to the Mainland. Green said many members of Taboada's church have left the Islands, including four of his sons.

Taboada has been in custody since July 21, unable to post $2 million bail.

Green asked Circuit Judge Richard Pollack to grant Taboada supervised release pending trial in the case. Murphy objected to the motion, calling Taboada a danger to the community and a flight risk.

Pollack scheduled an additional hearing on the motion for tomorrow.

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